India’s Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has taken a step toward the possible acquisition of 24 Lockheed Martin Sikorsky MH-60R anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters.

The news came in a defence ministry announcement that the DAC has earmarked INR460 billion ($6.4 billion) for new military equipment including helicopters for the navy and artillery for the army.

The package includes INR210 billion for 111 utility helicopters for the navy, which call for rotorcraft in the 5t class.

In addition, the announcement sets the stage for the acquisition of 24 11-12t ASW helicopters under the MRH (multi-role helicopter) requirement.

“To enhance the capability of navy at sea, approval has also been granted for procurement of Anti-Submarine capable, 24 in number Multi Role Helicopters, which are an integral part of the frontline warships like the aircraft Carriers, destroyers, frigates and corvettes. Availability of MRH with the Navy would plug the existing capability gap,” says the statement.

New Delhi had selected the S-70B for this requirement in 2014. At the time, the plan was to order 16 rotorcraft with eight on option.

The acquisition has changed, however, to 24 firm orders, with the MH-60R to be offered instead of the S-70B. In addition, the updated deal will be conducted under the auspices of the US government’s foreign military sale (FMS) process.

“Lockheed Martin is confident the MH-60R “Romeo” is the right aircraft for India’s Navy,” says the US defence contractor.

“We stand ready to support India and the United States for a government-to-government procurement of 24 MH-60R helicopters as part of the Multi Role Helicopter program. The MH-60R will provide a vital capability for the Indian Navy in the Indo-Pacific region.”

Sikorsky’s main rival for the MRH requirement was the NH Industries NH90, but this type reportedly fell out of contention for the deal.